Thursday, 6 August 2009

The fickle Social Networking market as ITV sells Friends Reunited

(By Richard Holway 8.00am Thursday 6th Aug 09) ITV have just announced that they have sold Friends Reunited to Brightsolid Limited, which is owned by DC Thomson, Dundee-based publisher of comics such as the Beano. ITV will get £25m – a far cry from the £120m they paid four years back.

Friends Reunited could have been today’s Facebook but ITV squandered the opportunity. The Ofcom Communications Market Report , referred to above, show how users of social networking sites are changing. The 15-24 year olds are turning away – there was a 10% drop in this age group. But the 35-54 year old group surged by 25% in the last year. Facebook was the main winner with a 73% surge in use last year with 19m regular UK users. Twitter saw its UK audience surge from 100,000 to 2.6m. Again mainly in the older age group as youngsters spurn it. LinkedIn also grew by 63% - another ‘older persons’ site. Conversely Bebo (which is aimed at the young, shrank 17%.

I think there is a major lesson here.

The market is changing extremely quickly – much faster than previous fads. Friends Reunited have shown that today’s favourite social networking site can be out of fashion tomorrow. Indeed, fashion is moving faster than our ability to work out how to make any money from it. Buying ‘eyeballs’ today in the hope of turning them into money tomorrow is a fools game if the eyeballs are so fickle. Personally, I believe that Twitter will go this way and I still haven’t found any benefit from LinkedIn (I think it’s got something to do with not looking for a job!) And clearly my use of Facebook is driving all the youngsters way!

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